Category:NFL Draft
Posted on: January 5, 2010 1:58 pm
 

Bulaga vs. Morgan, best of the bowl matchups

When the bowl matchups were released in December the Orange Bowl immediately struck me as the season's most intriguing game.

Just from a entertainment perspective, this game intrigues. Paul Johnson's innovative triple option offense is a great test for an Iowa defense that I believe to be as disciplined and consistent as any in the country. The Yellow Jackets are so talented at the skill positions that even if Iowa plays their typically sound defense, running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Anthony Adams or huge receiver Demaryius Thomas could break free for a dazzling play.

The matchup I and many NFL scouts will be focusing in on, however, will be on the other side of the ball and at the line of scrimmage where Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan will be matching up with Iowa offensive tackles Bryan Bulaga and Kyle Calloway.

Morgan, only a junior, was voted the ACC Defensive Player of the Year with 18 tackles for loss, including 12.5 sacks. He's got an explosive first, good upper body strength to shed blocks and the agility that have some teams envisioning the 6-4, 265 pounder making the conversion to outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme.

The rare combination of traits certainly has caught the attention of Bulaga, the Hawkeyes' junior left tackle. As Bulaga told the Omaha World-Herald:

“He's probably the best I'll have seen this year, probably the best a lot of us will see any year,” Bulaga said. “He's relentless,” Bulaga said. “He's a bigger guy so he can play the run very well. I think there's a lot to his game that you can like. “He brings a lot of different pass-rushing moves. His in move is very quick. He's got a great first step. There's a lot of things to his game that are just so good right now that it's hard not to give a guy like that praise.”
For all of the attention being heaped upon Morgan, however, don't sleep on Bulaga. Like senior right tackle Kyle Calloway, Bulaga plays with excellent technique and good strength. He wasn't himself early in the year due to a thyroid condition that forced him to miss three games. He's improved as the season has gone, however, and has cemented himself as a legitimate top 20 prospect. For all of the talk about Rutgers' Anthony Davis and Maryland's Bruce Campbell, Bulaga is more technically refined and, at only 20 years old, has greater upside. At 6-6, 312 pounds, he has rare foot quickness and balance in the passing and could surprise Morgan with his ability to protect the edge.

Look for Tech to move Morgan all over the field in an effort to take advantage of his unique skill-set. On the occassions when he lines up against Bulaga, however, lean in closer to the television. Their one on one matchup looks like the best one we've had throughout the entire bowl season. It also serves as the closest most college fans will ever get to seeing the one on one "battles in the pit" that have made senior all-star games like the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl such a unique scouting experience. Considering that these two future first round picks are juniors, and thus, ineligible, this will be their opportunity to show off.

 
Posted on: January 5, 2010 12:36 am
 

Clausen to have surgery; won't throw at Combine

Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen will undergoe surgery Tuesday to repair two torn ligaments in his right foot.

He is expected to be sidelined for 8-12 weeks and rather than rush the rehabilitation and throw at the Combine, he'll attempt to work out for scouts in early April, according to a report by ESPN.  Assuming the time-table in the report is accurate and that Clausen heals as expected, he's left with little wiggle-room to throw before the draft, approximately 15 weeks away.

Any concern about Clausen's health could prove significant. The former Irish star's primary competition to be the first quarterback selected, Oklahoma junior Sam Bradford, is both bigger and more accurate. Scouts feel Clausen is more ready to make the jump to the NFL due to his experience in Charlie Weis' pro-style offense, but also pointed to his health as a reason why he could go higher on draft day than Bradford. Without the advantage of greater health, the momentum might switch to Bradford, who most scouts feel has the higher upside.


Posted on: January 4, 2010 10:42 pm
 

Florida TE Aaron Hernandez going pro

Florida junior tight end Aaron Hernandez is telling teammates that he's leaving school and heading to the NFL draft.

The Mackey Award winner as the nation's top tight end, Hernandez caught 68 passes for 850 yards and 6 TDs this season, including a game-high 9 grabs for 111 yards and score against Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl. 

With his size and Florida's scheme not going to change, Hernandez had little to gain by returning for his senior season. In fact, he could have seen a significant loss in numbers with Tim Tebow moving on. One of the knocks on Tebow is that he too often relied on the reliable Hernandez underneath.

Listed at a generous 6-2, 250 pounds Hernandez doesn't have the size to fit every NFL scheme. He lacks the size and strength to be an effective inline blocker, but is a matchup nightmare due to his agility and soft hands. He fits best as an H-back, similar to how the Washington Redskins have used Chris Cooley in the past.

Despite his lack of size and strength, Hernandez had little choice but to take advantage of a position that many feel is among the worst of the draft. Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham is a high first round talent, but is, of course, recovering from the knee surgery that ended his senior season before it even began. USC's Anthony McCoy is a terrific blocker in the mold of 2009 first round pick Brandon Pettigrew, but lacks the speed to challenge defenses and is slipping down boards amid concerns about his reliability. McCoy has twice been suspended due to academics.

He projects as a second to third round pick at this point in the draft. Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham, who is, of course, recovering from knee surgery, might be the only tight end with a significantly higher grade from most clubs than Hernandez.

The second Florida junior has decided to turn pro early. If all indications via scouts, media and Florida teammates are correct, cornerback Joe Haden and tight end Aaron Hernandez won't have to wait long for other Gators to join them.

For more coverage on Hernandez and other Florida information, click here .
Posted on: January 2, 2010 11:24 am
Edited on: January 2, 2010 11:26 am
 

Berry is spectacular, but #3 tops

Athletic, instinctive and versatile enough to play any position in the defensive backfield (as well as returner), there is no denying Tennessee's Eric Berry is a phenomenal talent and a potential top five prospect in the 2010 draft. He'd have nothing to gain and potentially everything to lose had he elected to return for his senior campaign. The fact that he has two widely respected former NFL coaches in Lane and Monte Kiffin on hand to endorse him only adds to his impressive resumé.

Berry is also coming out in the perfect year for a ball-hawking safety considering the monstrous impact we've seen in the NFL this season from Darren Sharper and Brian Dawkins. Their first seasons with the New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos, respectively, have been instrumental in the defensive turnarounds of these clubs. The impressive rookie years by Pro Bowler Jairus Byrd (Buffalo) and Louis Delmas (Detroit), among others has proven that young players can make an immediate impact, as well.

Furthermore, we've seen the impact felt by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts defenses when their ulta-athletic, ultra instinctive safeties Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed and Bob Sanders have missed time.

And yet as important as the safety position is, NFL scouts will tell you that the relative value of the safety position simply limits his draft stock. Because of their greater ability to change the game on a play by play basis, quarterbacks and, more importantly for this year in particular, defensive linemen, will earn the higher draft slot come April.

I believe Eric Berry to be a future Pro Bowl regular, and yet barring a freak injury or surprise character question, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is not only going to be drafted ahead of Berry, he'll deserve to.  Oklahoma junior Gerald McCoy and Georgia Tech junior Derrick Morgan (should he, as expected, leave school early), will also jump ahead of Berry, if history is any indication.

Consider that there has been only three safeties taken in the top six since in the past twenty years: Eric Turner (Cleveland #2, 1991), Sean Taylor (Washington #5, 2004) and LaRon Landry (Washington #6, 2007).  In comparison, there have been 30 defensive linemen drafted in the top six during this time -- including four that have gone #1 overall (Steve Emtman-Indianapolis-1992; Dan Wilkinson-Cincinnati-1994; Courtney Brown-Cleveland-2000; Mario Williams-Houston-2006).  

The player most scouts will tell you Berry reminds them of is Reed, who somehow slipped to 24th in the 2002 draft.

I certainly don't believe scouts will take as long on draft day this year to realize the impact a potential Pro Bowl safety can have on their defense, but to rank Berry higher than a dominant "big," as some in the media are apparently doing, is simpy an attempt to be different. 


Posted on: December 30, 2009 1:54 pm
 

Suh dominant, but may not be today

Let's be real clear about this from the start -- NFLDraftScout.com rated Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh as the number one senior prospect in August. He's been atop every one of the many mock drafts I've penned already this year. I see no reason why he won't be atop every other 2010 mock draft I write. I don't know of anyone who touted him as a Heisman candidate before I did.

In fact, Bo Pelini and Suh's family might be the only ones higher on this young man's ability than I am.

And yet, I think he's going to struggle to make his typically dominant impact against Arizona today in the Holiday Bowl.

The Wildcats feature a true spread offense. Rarely does quarterback Nick Foles hang on to the ball for long, one of the reasons why Arizona has allowed only 11 sacks on the year (tied for 10th fewest in the FCS).

One could make the point that many of the offenses Suh faced in the Big 12 also feature the spread offense, including Texas, who Suh so infamously ravaged in the Big 12 Championship. Those teams, however, didn't have a month to prepare.

Against top teams with more typical pro-style offenses (Virginia Tech, Colorado, Kansas State, Iowa State), Suh averaged an eye-popping 7.5 tackles, a sack, 2 PBUs and .75 blocked kicks per game.

The two Big 12 teams using a true spread offense as wide as the one the Wildcats will use today were Kansas and Texas Tech. In those two contests Suh was held relatively in check, averaging only 3.5 tackles and 1 tackle for loss.

The spread offense was designed to get the ball out of the hands of the quarterback quickly to combat dominant penetrating defensive linemen just like Suh.

If he isn't as dominant today as he has been in the past, don't chalk it up to a lack of effort or his being overrated. NFL scouts certainly be.

Posted on: December 30, 2009 1:22 pm
 

Don't miss out on top rated OG Iupati today

The Idaho Vandals rarely make national television and thus, NFLDraftScout.com's top rated offensive guard Mike Iupati is one of the more unknown prospects to most fans.

Fans will get an opportunity to watch Iupati today against Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl at 4:30 EST on ESPN.

The 6-5, 330 monster lines up at left guard and wears #77.

Iupati was born in American Samoa and struggled making the academic standard initially due to his late start on learning the English language. Bigger teams knew of him and recruited him, but thought he was a risk due to the fact that he was a partial qualifier academically. Thus, Idaho got a rare ultra-talented propect.

Iupati is a road-grader in the running game. He uses his rare size and strength to simply overpower most defenders. What makes him so unique, however, is how light on his feet he can be. Iupati can pull around the edge and hit the roaming linebacker at the second level. He can adjust in pass protection to surprise blitzes.

He has the talent to do it all at the NFL level, as well, which is why he's ranked as NFLDraftScout.com's top-ranked senior guard since October.

At this point, Iupati remains a work in progress technique-wise. He is so used to dominating his opponents with just his size and strength that he fails to move his feet laterally and lets smaller DTs get their hands into his chest and bullrush him.

Coaches at Idaho rave about Iupati's character. With NFL-caliber coaching and a strong work ethic, he could prove worthy of a first round grade -- a few OGs deserve that -- especially in a class as loaded as the 2010 crop.
Posted on: December 30, 2009 1:02 pm
 

Hardy in, now Okung out?

In my last post, I highlighted what I expect to be the best one on one battle between highly rated senior prospects of the bowl season with Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung lining up opposite Mississippi defensive end Greg Hardy.

Hardy's inability to remain healthy made the dream matchup appear to be just a tease, until it was announced that Hardy had deemed himself 100% recovered from the wrist surgery and ankle injuries that had robbed him of his senior season.

Now, it might be Okung who is unable to suit up due to injury.

The Tulsa World is reporting that Okung suffered a knee injury during the closed practice held at Cowboy Stadium. Head coach Mike Gundy did not sound as if he knew the extent of the injury at his press conference following the practice, offering only "I really can't even comment on it..."

Okung, the veteran of 46 consecutive starts for the Cowboys, has been NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior offensive tackle all year long.

The link to the Tulsa World article is here.
Posted on: December 28, 2009 2:25 pm
 

Greg Hardy to return for Cotton Bowl, Okung

Mississippi's Greg Hardy is the wildcard in a supremely talented class of defensive linemen. When healthy, he's proven over his career to be as disruptive as DL in the country, including even Ndamukong Suh.

The problem, of course, is that he hasn't been able to stay healthy.

Sidelined since undergoing surgery on the left wrist he broke against Northern Arizona on November 7th, however, Hardy has had time to heal. The wrist and two sore ankles that limited him for much of his senior season have healed.

As he told David Brandt of The Clarion Ledger, ""The surgery allowed me some time to get my ankle and my foot back under me," Hardy said. "Now I can come back with confidence and no pain and can be my regular self."

Perhaps most intriguing about Hardy's recovery is who he'll be lining up against -- Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung (6-5, 302), the top-rated senior offensive tackle.

Okung has allowed only one sack all season long and despite playing in a spread offense based more on finesse and technique, Okung is a bit of a brawler and one of the only OTs in the country capable of matching up one on one with a healthy Hardy. Neither Okung nor Hardy, 6-4, 265, are spectacular athletes, but instead rely on physicality, strong hand play and determination to get the job done. The matchup is a potential coup for Hardy, who could supply a great late boost to his stock against Okung and has the ready excuse of being rusty should he fail to deliver on this opportunity.

Okung could further distance himself from the other OTs of this class with a strong performance against Hardy, a better, more powerful DE than anyone Okung has faced this season. Giving up a sack or two against Hardy could put Okung's spot at the top of the OT class very much in question. While Rutgers' junior Anthony Davis (6-6, 325) hasn't been as consistent as the Okung, he's bigger, more athletic and has experience in a pro-style offense and as such is seen by some as possessing more upside for the NFL.

Their matchup should make for one of the most intriguing one on one battles of the entire year.

In fact, only one other OT-DE battle of the coming bowl games will earn as much attention from scouts: the battle between Iowa OT Bryan Bulaga and Georgia Tech DE Derrick Morgan. Bulaga and Morgan are each juniors, but as legitimate first round talents, have earned plenty of interest from NFL scouts.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com